Hamilton, Hope installs new turf field, Zeeland to replace old turf

16 June 2017

Beginning in the 2017-18 school year, West Ottawa and Fennville will be the only high schools in the area that will not have a turf field for their football program.

Hamilton has joined the ranks of Holland, Holland Christian, Zeeland East and West and Saugatuck with turf fields and it came together quick. Demolition and construction began in April and will finish up in late July, early August.

The field is already installed and a new track will be poured and finished before school starts. It was part of a bond issued by Hamilton School District and should keep the athletic field more playable when inclement weather brings heavy rains.

But what is the benefit of switching from grass to turf? The soccer team will be able to play and practice on it, there is more room for the football team which means the varsity, junior varsity and freshman teams can all practice on the field at the same time. In addition, the Hamilton recreation department will also be using the complex. A grass field would require upkeep and consistent maintenance. Field turf however, won’t require as much maintenance.

“It drains through the rock, around the perimeter, there’s flat cross drains that go across the field and 18 inch perforated pipe that goes around field and it all drains through that,” AstroTurf Field Superintendent Travis Anderson said. “We put in about 240,000 pounds of rubber and about 180,000 pounds of sand. The sand is mostly for soccer usage, most schools use that. Makes the ball play a little faster. It’s about what everybody’s going too.”

Anderson and AstroTurf are installing the turf at Hamilton and will be installing the new turf at Zeeland. Construction on the 12-year-old turf at Zeeland will begin this summer and done by the time football season begins for the Chix and Dux.

“Zeeland had to go with turf due to the amount of use our stadium has,” Zeeland East athletic director Tim Ritsema said. “Four middle school football teams and six high school football teams as well as lacrosse in the spring would most certainly kill the grass and make it a pretty tough surface to play on.”

The Zeeland school district he said has saved money each year from its building and site fund to pay for the replacement.

Hope College will also see a new turf field at Van Andel Soccer Stadium that is currently under construction. Anderson, in his 11 years with AstroTurf has installed over 200 fields for schools all around the country.

Demolition of the grass field meant building a new base. But instead of hard ground, instead is 186 inches of aggregate stone and rock followed by a few inches of coarse rock on top. After it’s flattened, a 3/8 inch shock pad is installed that protects players from falls. The 1 3/4 inch turf is then installed on top and nailed together. The final addition is the ground rubber pellets and sand.

With the replacement of the turf at Zeeland, Chix football coach Derek Pennington is looking forward to the new surface in the upcoming season.

“It allows us to practice with lines and hash marks and the proper spacing which is critical for the spread offense,” Pennington said. “We are excited about our new surface in 2017. The new surfaces are much better than the turf that was sold a decade ago.”

The turf that was installed at Zeeland had an 8-10 year life span and The turf that was installed at Zeeland had an 8-10 year life span and has just reached its 12th year.

Ritsema said the surface has become much harder since the original installation with consistent events occurring on the field. With a large rock base and better drainage, the days of having a muddy football game at Hamilton High School is over. “I really look forward to it raining all day in the fall and telling the coach you’re good,” Bandstra said.

With good drainage, the field will be playable during most weather conditions whether its hot or cold, or rainy or dry. Finally, the turf cuts down on injuries, according to Anderson.

“There’s about 60 percent less injuries and this compared to grass. It’s definitely safer, less concussions,” Anderson said.

According to a study done by Penn State’s Center for Sports Surface Research, there’s no difference in the overall injury rate. Of 12 scientific injury studies published, none found a higher overall injury rate on synthetic turf and one study found a lower overall injury rate on synthetic turf.

In high school football, synthetic turf had a higher incidence of zero-day time loss injuries, non-contact injuries, surface/epidermal injuries and injuries during high temperatures. Grass has a higher incidence of 22-plus day injuries, head and neural trauma and ligament injuries (mostly on dry fields).

With consistent improvements and advances in technology, turf could be safer in the future. What is certain is that Hamilton will see consistent events on their new turf field that will be much easier to maintain.